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UN Adopts First High Seas Treaty to Protect Oceans’ Biodiversity

Member states will have two years starting Sept. 20 to ratify the high seas treaty, which requires 60 countries' participation to take effect.
Published: June 20, 2023
A school of fish swims at Isle de Madelaine off Senegal's capital Dakar July 24, 2007. (Image: REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly/File Photo)

After 20 years of diplomatic efforts, the United Nations has adopted an unprecedented treaty to protect the high seas and preserve marine biodiversity in international waters, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced Monday (June 19).

The agreement for a High Seas Treaty was made in March by 100 U.N. members after more than 15 years of negotiations and discussions. It is also called the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction treaty.

While the treaty has been adopted, it still requires ratification by at least 60 U.N. member states to take effect.

Guterres praised the countries who supported the treaty, saying in a statement that they have “pumped new life and hope to give the ocean a fighting chance.”

Member states will have two years starting Sept. 20 to ratify the treaty, which is part of the U.N.’s goal to extend environment protections to 30 percent of the world’s land and sea by 2030.

Among other provisions, the legally binding agreement would govern sharing benefits derived from marine genetic resources beyond national jurisdictions, creating protected areas on the high seas and establishing a framework for assessing environmental damage.

Tourists stand in front of huts that form part of the Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort where a turtle digs for food amongst the coral in the island’s lagoon, north-east of the town of Bundaberg in Queensland, Australia, June 9, 2015. (Image: REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo)

Reuters contributed to this report.